The City of New Westminster's multiuse civic facility isn't much to look at today, but its architecture will emerge in the months to come.
Construction of the city's 80,000 square foot civic centre and 100,000 square foot office tower project is underway at the corner of Columbia and Eighth streets. The office tower will be built above the civic centre, which will be on top of three levels of underground parking.
Dan Giordano, project manager with Pivotal Project Management, said all of the cement for P3 has been poured and P2 is about 50 per cent complete. He said the goal is to be at grade by November, at which time people will see the civic centre and office tower begin to take shape.
"When people look in they can't get a very good perspective," he said. "Once we get those first four storeys out of the ground, it is dynamic architecture."
The city's portion of the civic centre will include a 350-seat theatre, conference and meeting space, art studios, an art gallery, tourist information centre, the city's museum and the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
"We are going to have hoarding installed in the next two weeks," said Blair Fryer, the city's communications manager. "You'll see the whole site wrapped with hoarding. There will be further information about the project and some of the key features to be found in the multi-use civic facility and the office tower."
Shelley Niel, construction manager with PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc., said about 80 people are currently working on the job site. At times, up to 120 workers will be on site.
"It will change. It will go up and down," she said. "We don't have a lot of sub-trades here yet."
Terry Atherton, the city's manager of civic buildings and properties, said the project is proceeding on time and on budget.
"That is our job," Giordano said during a recent site visit. "It has to be on schedule and on budget."
The total budget for the project is $94 million, which includes $41.5 million for the civic centre, $12.5 million for the parking structure (to be used by the office tower and the civic facility), and $40 million for the office tower. The city will use $43 million in casino money known as "development assistance compensation" for the project.
The goal is to complete the civic centre by the spring of 2014, although the city has received permission to extend the deadline to December 2015 and still get the development assistance compensation. The original deadline required the civic centre to be complete by Dec. 31, 2013.
Giordano said there were a couple of challenges that occurred after work began on the site.
Giordano noted that the Purpose Society's building, which is north of the civic centre site, didn't come up to the city's property line. Engineers contemplated what to do with the space between the two sites, eventually deciding to backfill it with pea gravel.
"It's a good example of how the team had to come up with a solution on the spot, not to impact the schedule or the budget," Giordano said.
Atherton said the gravel will be placed in the space to address drainage needs, which is less than a foot wide.
The City of New Westminster has retained Pivotal as the project manager. PCL is the project's general contractor.
Demolition of the former buildings on the site got underway last summer. That was followed by excavation and shoring of the site.
"I have been there since the demolition. It's very nice to get out of the hole," Atherton said. "You never know what you will encounter in the ground." As the project makes its way upward, Atherton said there are fewer unknowns and it becomes more a standard construction project.
Steve Matheson, managing director with Pivotal, noted that another discovery was made during the excavation and clearing of the civic centre site.
"We found out the base of the Purpose building had some hole in the walls," he said. "The city, as part of this, repaired those holes."
While many Royal City residents are eagerly anticipating the opening of the civic centre and anticipate that it will have a positive impact on downtown revitalization, some have raised concerns about the city's decision to proceed with construction of the office tower. After its development partner pulled out of the project, the city agreed to build the tower on its own and fund the project by using reserves, borrowing funds and selling or leasing the office space.